Basil hurried to the advent calendar to see what surprise lay hidden in the slip of paper curled ’round the ring for today. Heather did the planning and writing, as I’d done for her and Chad when they were children. December 11th read, “Momo picks you up early from Robeson. You have a special treat and get to read a story together.” Basil, after a full day in kindergarten loves getting picked up early from Robeson’s after school program. He just wants to get home as fast as possible, especially now when darkness comes earlier and lingers longer. Home is where Christmas comes and stays well into January.
After savoring Basil’s squeal of JOY, I stood back, surveying the calendar I’d stitched just in time for December 1970. It began as a project, a distraction, for someday when I hoped I would be “great with child.” Not easy to keep stitching when nothing seemed to be happening. Some days it felt like I balled up my fist, as well as the string and yarn. I’d grown so weary of waiting, testing, hoping. Jud, on the other hand, remained patient, hopeful, ready to try again. Men! (Yes, I still miss that man.)
Meanwhile, Bestemor, my Norwegian grandmother, prayed and made a quilt. It arrived with a note held fast by a large safety pin,”with every stitch I’ve prayed that God would remember you with a child, like he did Hannah.” Weeks later, when my bout with the flu turned out to be a bug we named Heather, Grandma’s gift became known as the fertility quilt, causing some to avoid it, while others snuggled beneath it, hoping for more than just warmth.
Not every woman’s infertility story, turns out as mine did. If it were all about the quilt, I’d pass it along to any who wished for a child. I don’t pretend to know why me and why not others, mystery is part of this life. Weeks before the quilt arrived, I’d settled my heart. We began the process of adopting a child. This was no longer about me and what I or we couldn’t do. It grew to be an adventure in this mysterious realm of faith. It became a sacred time of asking important questions and waiting with God instead of for God to show up to do our bidding.
We waited and wondered,” Why are we here? What’s our purpose in this world?” This world so loved by God, full of suffering, loneliness and worse, needs LOVE beyond the usual. After Heather arrived, we shifted and narrowed our focus to tend God’s “bug” but tried to never lose sight of the needs beyond our small family.
It was Jesus who said that all that really mattered could be summed up in, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and your neighbor as yourself.” This world needs folks who believe that plans B,C or beyond, when infused with God’s Spirit, can trump (a word I shudder to use) the best plan A we can concoct.
Over the years, Jud and I’ve known some of these Lovers, in and out of our extended family. We’ve met their very loved adopted children and very loved foster children. We’ve watched folks without children, free to be and go where God nudged them to tend very loved old and young, wherever, however. This world is blessed by men and women who love with open hands, not balled fists.
If I could, I’d write your names on today’s advent calendar and the names of all you’ve touched through your love. Christ’s love through you. I’d rack my brain for the best surprise to write on a slip of paper and curl onto today’s ring. But nothing good enough came to mind, until this thought.
GOD’s got a calendar.
God knows the names of all you’ve cradled, cuddled, carted here or there and continue to care for at bedsides, in wheelchairs or in faraway places. Places with names too hard to pronounce so they’re easily dismissed, much like the folks who live there.
So, dear Lovers, if not today, one day you’ll be in for a grand surprise when you unfurl what’s been written beside your name on God’s Advent Calendar. Although I grasp but a little of God’s love for you and how much LOVE matters to God, whatever the surprise, I’m sure it can’t be contained in a couple of lines on one small slip of paper. It may look a little like Basil’s,”You have a special treat and get to read a story together” but that will be just the beginning.
Maybe during this Advent season, you will find JOY in the thought that the story you read together some day with God, will be about you and God and an astonishing list of names of young and old you’ve loved through your open heart, hands and home. And God who is LOVE may just lean in and whisper something like, “Don’t you just love a good story!” and you, surprised to life, will realize that it’s your story written from the perspective of God’s loving heart.
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